After a year of distance learning and homeschooling for many children in our community including families at the shelter, Empower Yolo’s shelter staff and After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) staff are preparing the kids for a successful, new school year back in person.

Preparations at Empower Yolo’s emergency safe house are well underway.  After a year of distance learning for the children that were residing at shelter during the pandemic, the shelter staff is eager to make sure this new school year is a success for the children.

“This year, it’s all about helping the children readjust to attending school in person again,” says Tyler Geike child/support advocate, Empower Yolo. “The safe house staff helps our children prepare for back to school by providing them enrichment in the summer, which includes reading, summer camp activities, and personal development. Our staff creates a warm, inviting, and welcoming environment for all our children by providing them a special breakfast on their first day of school, as well as school supplies and lunch boxes. Moreover, we provide our children and families with back to school pictures and a first day of school outfit,” said Geike.

Last year, Empower Yolo’s child advocates did an amazing job assisting 15-20 children from four different school districts, ranging from kindergarten to college grade levels.  They created two classrooms in the shelter to support the kids. Currently, the shelter is supporting 21 children that are preparing for this upcoming school year; their ages range from 5 to 18 years old.

Empower Yolo is hosting its annual back to school drive in the month of August to support children at the shelter and other families in need. Since the children are preparing to go back to school in person the shelter will need more school supplies than they did last year, especially backpacks and back to school outfits.

The donations that are given during the back to school drive are very helpful for families in the shelter throughout the year. “Back to school isn’t just one day for the shelter; we need backpacks and school supplies to have on hand all the time because we have children coming to the shelter all year round who are often starting new schools,” says Sonia Jimenez, shelter director, Empower Yolo.

Shelter families need more support accessing necessities for their children. “Our families at the safe house have limited resources and often lack the necessary funds to provide their kids with back to school supplies. We are thankful to receive donations from our community in order to make back to school a special day for our children,” says Geike.

The physical preparations have a positive impact on a student’s ability to learn. “Studies have shown that starting the school year with the necessary supplies can promote learning, boost self-esteem, and help children succeed and grow in school. Some kids may already feel the pressure to fit in and go back to school. Without the proper supplies kids can feel like they don’t fit in which may make them feel worse. By having the necessary supplies we can show our children how to be prepared and what it takes to succeed and excel in school,” says Geike.

The community can help by supporting our back to school drive. Donations needed include: backpacks, lunch boxes, enrichment items, pencils, markers, notebooks, art supplies, reusable water bottles and or little toys/activities. Also gift cards to local businesses such as Target and Walmart are greatly appreciated so that our families in the safe house can provide first day of school outfits for their children.

Donations can be brought to main office at 175 Walnut Street in Woodland or the Family Resource Center at 441 D Street, Davis during office hours; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please donate by August 16, 2021. A full list of needed items can be found on our website at:

“Being able to create a safe and loving environment for the children is our number one priority in the safe house. Providing our children with back to school supplies would mean the world to our families at the safe house. This is our next generation of students. Let’s make going back to school after a challenging year a special moment for all of them,” says Geike.

After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETS):

Empower Yolo’s ASSETs program will be open full-time in person in the fall. The ASSETs team continues to provide services to students to ensure that they achieve academic and lifelong success. The program will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at La Semilla at Woodland High School beginning on the first day of school, August 19.

ASSETs provides an array of services and resources that range from: tutoring from UC Davis tutors, academic interventions, success coaching, athletic conditioning, leadership opportunities through various clubs, and activities. Community involvement opportunities will be provided for students through established relationships with organizations such as Fourth and Hope and the Yolo Food Bank. For parents, monthly workshops will continue to be provided to further support the development of the students.

“We plan on continuing to develop programs that promote the academic, emotional and social development of students. In response to returning from the unprecedented situation of a pandemic, we hope to ensure that any students who have been affected by the virtual environment remain on track and are still continuing to pursue goals they had set prior to the pandemic and are establishing new milestones,” says Fabian Iglesias, director of youth programs, ASSETs program manager, Empower Yolo.

We are open to collaborate with the community to ensure that our students receive the resources and support they need to achieve their goals. If any community organizations have opportunities for our students to get involved with to help them further develop and grow please contact Fabian Iglesias at: [email protected].

“In addition to offering our services to our Woodland High School students we hope to continue making our resources available to Pioneer High School students. Due to a potential lack of funding for the Pioneer Opportunity Program (POP), programs and clubs for these students are at risk of being cut. Nevertheless, the ASSETs team looks forward to fulfilling its mission of empowering all youths to academic and lifelong success, and reaching as many students as possible with the hope that we receive the support from our community in order to do so,” says Iglesias.

ASSETs has successfully completed its annual summer Freshman Leadership Academy in collaboration with UC Davis Early Academic Outreach Program, City of Woodland, Travis Credit Union, and the Woodland Joint Unified School District, where students completed five elective credits, and have been prepared to be future leaders for our community. Students had the opportunity to visit six universities, which included five California State Universities and one University of California. Throughout the five-week program, students participated in a variety of workshops, which were split into three separate daily sessions, life/work skills, college knowledge and leadership. Together, these three components helped build a foundation to prepare students for their high school careers and beyond.

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